Sudden and acute lower back pain can occur without prior symptoms and is usually triggered by bending, twisting or lifting. Pain often improves slowly over time but can be severe and debilitating until you recover. Here are the best ways to manage your lower back pain and prevent it happening again.
#1 – Put some ice on the painful area.
Icing is very useful for an acute injury. Ice can lower pain and affect inflammation. The best way to ice an injury is to wrap a cold pack in a wet cloth and place it over the site of pain. Most people ice incorrectly; they chuck the ice on for 20 minutes, get bored and put it away. The most effective way to ice an injury is intermittently. Place the ice on the injury for 10 minutes and take it off for 10 minutes, repeated 7 times. Although seven times may sound excessive, remember that the injury is inflamed and actually generating heat. It’s like placing an ice pack on the outside of an oven. The injured structures are also very deep and so icing once or twice will just give you cold skin. So, ice intermittently for 10 minutes at a time, seven times.
#2 – Find a position of comfort.
In this early stage, pain is to be avoided. Find a position you are most comfortable in. This will allow your condition to settle as much as possible. The position of comfort is not always what you would expect; quite commonly, sitting is very painful if the injury occurs in one of the lumbar discs. If you must sit, it can be helpful to place a pillow behind your lower back to help you sit up straight and avoid further disc injury.
#3 – Take Anti-inflammatory medication.
Take some over the counter anti-inflammatory tablets. Anti-inflammatories reduce pain and inflammation – the two things we need to limit at this early and important stage of recovery. Take the tablets as per the instructions on the packaging for up to two days. Do not take these medications if you have an allergy, a medical condition that precludes taking anti-inflammatory drugs or against your medical professional’s advice.
#4 – Keep moving.
Once possible, it is vitally important to keep moving. By doing so, you prevent the rapid atrophy in muscles that is seen in those who injure their back and remain still for days. These muscles are crucial to your long term recovery as they stabilise your lumbar spine preventing future injuries and chronic pain. I also recommend walking as soon as comfortable. Another useful exercises are flexing your abdominal muscles in an upright seated position and holding the contraction for ten seconds. This exercise helps keeps the muscles of your core working.
#5 – Get a diagnosis.
Book an appointment with your local Chiropractor (or another trusted health professional). The advice in this blog is useful but it is not specific to your condition. The most important thing to do when you injure yourself is to get a diagnosis. With that you can get the most appropriate treatment and advice to help you recover fast and fully. Try to get an appointment as soon as possible.
In rare cases, a person’s condition may become, or be caused by, a medical emergency. So, go straight to the hospital if you have low back pain with any one of the following: unbearable pain, severe abdominal pain, bowel, bladder or sexual function symptoms/changes, pins and needles or numbness around your groin or bottom, sudden or progressive leg weakness, fainting or feeling faint and other extraordinary symptoms. You will also need to go to the hospital if your low back pain is caused by significant trauma.
Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions.
Scott Leabeater is The Backstory Chiropractic’s Principal Chiropractor. Scott uses up to date research literature to guide an evidence based approach to diagnosis and treatment. His unique professionalism and knowledge has made Scott highly sought after. Throughout his career he has treated everyone from local office workers to Olympic athletes. Scott is an AHPRA registered Chiropractor and member of Chiropractic Australia.